Tourist Destinations!

St Martin's Church, Exminster

Church of St. Martin

Our family has gone on a few vacations together.  For the most part, we don’t get too far from home, but we do enjoy getting out of town every now and then.  Have you ever noticed the types of places we plan to go for vacation?  They’re usually tropical, warm destinations.  Disney World.  Disney Land.  Sea World.  Bahamas.  Jamaica.  A cruise.  The beach.  Depending on your vacation, you will look for places to tour.  You might be a family that likes to walk around a historical museum or location.  Seeing a statue that was built in memory of someone can be a lot of fun.  We plan to go somewhere that we can tour and see things that we can’t see at home.

Want to know what one of the tourist stops in the United Kingdom is?  A church like this one near Exminster in Great Britain.  It is the Church of St. Martin and it dates back to the 14th Century.  You can even go online here and research much of the data on the church.  For instance, the history tells us about the Parish registers, dating back to 1562.  They even have published indexes covering baptisms, weddings, burials and christenings.

As our family was driving through one small town in Missouri, we stopped at a little park to have a picnic lunch.  Vacations on a budget is how we roll.  We sat eating our lunch and noticed a cute little building on the park grounds.  It sure looked like a church.  A really old church.  My wife wanted some pictures before we left town.  We started to walk around the building and we saw a sign in the front.  It was the town museum, formerly a church.  It had been remade to show off town history along with much of the history of the church.  It didn’t date back to 1562, but it was still a very old church building.

In terms of “religion,” the western world is following suit with much of that of Europe.  As Europe has moved away from Christianity, much of America is doing the same.  We could answer the question, “Are you a Christian” with the answer, “Yes,” while at the same time answering the question, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God” with the answer, “No.”  Simply stated, the church in America is dying.  More churches die per year than we replace with new churches.  According to one article I read, we need to plant 2900 more churches a year just to keep up with the population growth.

Let me say it this way, America has decided it no longer needs the church.  The church is no longer the center for spiritual needs to be met.  As Europe left the church behind, America is following close behind.

A very sad possibility is ahead of us.  That possibility is that churches could feasibly become tourist locations in America.

I for one, am not ready to concede.  I for one, am not ready to turn our churches over to the tourist industry.  The question is, how far are we willing to go to stop the bleeding?

How much are we willing to sacrifice to make the church of God thrive again?

Are we willing to engage the culture in new and risky ways?

I would like to share more on that question in a future post.  In the meantime, what are some of your thoughts?

How is your church engaging the culture around you in fresh ways?

What are some of your ideas for engaging the culture so that we don’t become a tourist attraction in America?

What do you think some of the key contributing factors are to this decline in the church in America?


About Stan Rodda

Follower. Husband. Father. Shepherd. Apostle. Husker.

Posted on August 25, 2010, in Church, Church Planting, evangelism, God, Leadership, missional communities, missionary, outreach, resources, the basics, the culture, the nation, worldview. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I just met with a bunch of guys from The Upstream Collective where there goal is to plant churches/be missional in Europe. They are reteaching people that want to be missionaries how to integrate into culture.

    Big picture – I think this is something we better prepare all of our pastors back home for.

    • I agree. Interesting the debate about attractional v. missional v. traditional and on and on, the church in America is still in decline. I definitely think something has to be done or we’re just going to have a lot of really big, pretty buildings sitting around empty. Would love to hear more about The Upstream Collective.

      • I am not sure that I am qualified to comment but I think a large part of the problem with the church is the push to be culturally relevant. It comes across as disingenuous and like they are trying to hard. Take as a small example modern Christian music. There are lots of culturally relevant musicians out there who happen to Christians (see Sufjan Stevens, Belle and Sebastian, The Mountain Goats). They are all loved by critics, hipsters, and many Christians as well. Modern Christian music has produced very little that is appreciated outside their community despite decades of trying to make Christian versions of whatever is popular at the moment (i seriously doubt this is to lack of talent). Look at churches which are growing in the USA. Pentecostals and Mormons usually lead the bunch. They are not trying to fit in. They say this is the way it is join or not. They are however very genuine. Finally one of the beautiful things about the Church is it is a connection to our past. It is bigger and older than any of us and provides an enduring sense of community. I feel that a lot of the sense of culture and community in the Church has been lost as the church has tried to adopt other cultures that are not its own.

        I think the church would be more successful if instead of superficial changes it looked at ways to revamp its thought patterns for the 21st century. This could be done by looking back at the words of Jesus and caring for the poor, respecting the environment, loving your neighbor (regardless of beliefs) as yourself. Making an impact in peoples lives in the community will go far further than fitting in with their culture ever will.

      • That is great insight, Bryce. You sound plenty qualified to comment. I agree with you as well. While there are elements of the church that must engage the culture properly, there is also the command to “love God and love people” that spans all cultures and centuries. I posted on that a few posts back as well. A genuine love for God and people is best. If that isn’t there, we continue to live the life of hypocrites.

  2. I don’t think we’re to the point yet of churches being tourist attractions, but it will happen to some extent. There’s a church north of us in Weston MO that’s been retrofitted to house a winery. Not a bad use of space, but a little bit sad.

    • Agreed, it is sad. While I don’t think this is going to happen over night, there is at least some consensus on the thought that the church will be closer to this reality by the year 2050. So no, it’s definitely not an immediate thing, but we also have to make changes now if we want to create a different reality for ourselves.

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